IT was Harvey team one which took out the title of inaugural WA State Ag School Sheep Handling Challenge winners at last week's Rabobank WA Sheep Expo and Sale.
Comprised of Brianna Pearson, Jordan Ganci, Bonnie Rodwell, Stuart Richardson, Joseph Thompson, Danielle Mauger, Tom Berkett and Jarrad Symes, the team judged, classed and sheared its way to the top of the leaderboard, pipping Narrogin team one and Cunderdin team two by the smallest of margins.
The competition saw 64 competitors (eight teams of eight - two from each college) from the WA College of Agriculture Narrogin, Denmark, Harvey and Cunderdin compete in four catagories - shearing, wool handling, judging the meat attributes of live prime lambs and classing a line of Merino ewe hoggets.
The eight round competition saw students' performances in their categories score from 100 and team points were then combined to determine the overall winner.
Students were judged by a panel of sheep industry professionals made up of Leo and Deborah Page (wool handling), Tambellup,
38-year shearing veteran Kevin Lawrence (shearing), Northam, Landmark stud stock representative Roy Addis (meat judging) and AWI sheep industry specialist Stuart Hodgson (ewe hogget classing).
A handful of shearing veterans including father and son duo Don and Brendon Boyle, Broomehill, as well as Tom Reid were also on hand to mentor the students taking part in the shearing category.
The shearing was judged on the quality of the job done, rather than the speed, and the wool handling was scored on the basis of the individual student's board and floor clean-up, handling techniques including the skirting and throwing of the fleece and separation of oddments.
Meat classing was judged on the students' ability to identify wider loins and carry out fat scoring as well as judging the live weight of the lambs. The Merino ewe hoggets were classed on the basis of their wool and overall condition.
Individual category winners were also awarded at the end of the day.
Lauren Raynor from the WA College of Agriculture Narrogin took out the ewe hogget classing category while WA College of Agriculture Harvey student Jarrad Symes was the overall winner in the prime lamb meat judging.
WA College of Agriculture Harvey's Shelby Atherton won the wool handling section of the competition and her shearing counterpart Joseph Thompson tied with Amy Blechynden, WA College of Agriculture Narrogin, to win the shearing contest.
The maiden competition was sponsored by Australian Wool Innovation (AWI) which kindly donated $1500 worth of prize money to the overall winning team and individual category victors.
Harvey team one took home $500, Narrogin team one pocketed $300 and Cunderdin team two earned $200 for third place.
An amount of $100 was also awarded for fourth place and $100 was given to each of the individual category winners.
The competition is designed to motivate and recognise the contribution of young up-and-comers in the sheep and wool industry, particularly as students of local agricultural colleges provide a sizeable source of WA's sheep industry labour once they graduate.
It's also aimed at fostering talent so that students return to the industry (given the opportunity) once their schooling years are finished.
Claypans Merino and Poll Merino stud principal and Stud Merino Breeders' Association of WA president Steven Bolt, Corrigin, initiated the idea and helped to organise the competition.
He said the opportunity to ask questions of the mentors and judges in order to build on the students' knowledge, had the potential to provide confidence, skill and incentive for young players.
"The concept came about because we were looking for a way to involve the agricultural colleges in the Rabobank WA Sheep Expo and Sale," Mr Bolt said.
"The Stud Merino Breeders' Association of WA and AWI have a responsibility to encourage young people into the industry and provide the platforms to do so.
"We couldn't be happier that the students will go away from here inspired and feeling like we want them to be a part of the industry.
"Thanks so much to the schools for getting behind the competition in its first year.
"Any way we can attract more young people into the industry is always going to be a positive thing."
The students were also highly congratulated by the judges who said the quality of their performance produced some outstanding results - some of which would stack up in competitions anywhere in the country.